Sleeping Giant: an Imbabura's Artisans Route

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To truly immerse yourself in this journey, you must embrace the ways of the locals and rise early in the morning. It's also recommended to stay in one of the charming villages surrounding Otavalo to fully embrace the picturesque landscapes that earned it the name "Valley of the Dawn."

We rented a vehicle from Budget, ensuring comfort and convenience for this adventure that leads us to the lagunas de Mojanda. But first, let's share our experience at a campsite that awaits us further ahead.

Awakening in Cotacachi, we were greeted by clear views of its majestic volcano. We spent the night at Jahua Pacha, a beautiful residence offering all the comforts we would leave behind for this expedition. However, one can revel in the tranquility of this place for days on end.

With the sun rising on the horizon, we headed to one of the largest (and most unique) markets in the area: el mercado de animales (animals market). Here, every week, valley dwellers gather in long queues not just to enter the market, but to showcase their livestock for sale along the streets leading up to the premises.

The bartering and trading that takes place here will give you a glimpse into the distinctiveness of this place: "two guinea pigs for one hen!" Animals raised by local families are sold and exchanged. Saturdays are dedicated to poultry, with chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and roosters filling the market. But if you truly want to witness the market's full extent, come on a Friday when horses, cows, bulls, and even llamas are brought in. It's an intriguing place to learn about the customs that have developed over the years.

As the market opens and closes early, and the day was sunny, we took a slight detour to meet the majestic "Lechero" tree (árbol “Lechero”. Though it may appear small, it is a sacred tree over 300 years old, perched on Pucará Rey hill, offering panoramic views of lago San Pablo and cerro Imbabura. Here, the wakcha karay (sharing in solidarity) takes place to honor Taita Imbabura. It's a ritual of gratitude for bountiful harvests and abundant lands, celebrated with grand communal feasts.

Next, of course, we descended to the iconic cascada de Peguche (Peguche waterfall)—a perennial delight to visit. The park entrance is adorned with handcrafted textiles and unique artworks, a treat for both national and international visitors. For a mere 50 cents, you can access a trail that immerses you in the vibrant and pure essence of the place. In the distance, you can hear the cascade's 20-meter plunge, where many take a refreshing dip and rejuvenate their spirits before continuing their journey.

You have two options to continue your exploration. In terms of distance, it's best to visit the local artisans of Peguche, but we saved it for later. As midday approached, we decided to head down to the center of Otavalo for lunch. We highly recommend Los Choclitos, a food stall nestled within our next stop: el Mercado de Ponchos, the main attraction for weekend visitors to the province.

Open throughout the week, Saturdays are when the market truly shines, displaying its vast array of art, fashion, and craftsmanship as local communities come together in full force. As far as the eye can see, it's the perfect place to find exactly what you've been searching for or discover something you didn't even know you desired. Here, you can find all the information you need about the market.

With limited time before our departure to Mojanda, we took a brief stroll and returned to Peguche, where we wanted to immerse ourselves in the art and culture of the region. What we discovered pleasantly surprised us! Music and workshops showcasing Andean instruments at casa de música andina Taita Gundo, unique crafts blending indigenous traditions with those from other parts of the world at casa taller de tejido Equator Face, and the timeless weaving process of casa taller de tejido Equator Face. Click on each link to delve deeper into their fascinating stories.

After witnessing such remarkable talent, it was time for a natural adventure! The road to Mojanda is paved with cobblestones, and it's much easier to reach it from Otavalo than from Quito. However, be sure to bring all the necessary camping gear. Along the way, you can purchase firewood for a cozy bonfire and stock up on provisions for the night and the following morning at reasonable prices. We set off at 4 p.m. to arrive before nightfall.

And so, before the evening descends upon the Valley of the Dawn, we headed to our next stop, which we'll unveil in our upcoming article next month.

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